Great Software for Your
Sharp Zaurus Posted January 2004 Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief
So you've got yourself a Z, and
you want a couple of killer apps. If you're new to the Zaurus or
new to Linux, you've come to the right place. Movie players, image
viewers, file managers and Net apps are popular, but the Z doesn't
ship with particularly strong apps in all of these categories.
Here are some apps that should be on a Zaurus owner's short list. Most
of the apps are turn key-- just install the .ipk package file and
you're set. A few are for the Linux-saavy, and we'll note that.
Free apps are generally available under the GNU General Public
License (GPL). In addition to the developers' web sites, most of
the free apps are also available for download from killefiz.de/zaurus/and
other feeds.If you're interested in
games, check out our Zaurus Linux game reviews here.
All the apps listed here will
work with the C700, C750, C760 and C860 (C7xx)
as well as the SL-5500 and SL-5600 (SL-5xxx)
series commonly available in the US market. Note that the C860
is a member of the C7xx family of devices so software for C7xx
will run on your C860.
This is the most versatile commercial video
player available for the Zaurus, supporting most of the popular
formats. It supports MPEG 1, MPEG 2, MPEG 4, MSMPEG4 V3,
H263(+) (aka RealVideo 1.0), Raw video, AVI and MJPEG video
formats and MPEG1/2/3 audio encoding. It uses ffmpeg library
found at ffmpeg.sf.net.
There are separate versions for the C7xx and SL-5xxx series.
Besides supporting many formats, tkcVideo performed
very well on our C860 when we threw MPEG1, AVI and MPEG4
files at it which were encoded at an average of 300k bitrate
with stereo audio. Movies played smoothly, audio stayed in
sync and frame rates looked good to our picky eyeballs. This
was true even when playing full screen (movies will scale
nicely to fill the screen) on the C860 from a high speed
Kingston 256 meg SD card.
The player offers the usual controls for fast
foward, rewind, pause, stop, play and so on. On the SL-5xxx
series it supports preview mode, which means that video will
play in a window as shown in the screen shot. You can also
play full screen, of course! On the C7xx series, preview
mode isn't supported, so you'll get full screen playback
only and the player will close once it's done playing the
video. The folks at theKompany are working on remedying these
Ease of Use: theKompany is likely the largest
commercial software developer for the Zaurus, and their many
apps are easy to install and get running. Totally Newbie
While you won't see mention of Dr. Z Video player
on PalmPalm's web site, their player is one of the more popular
downloads on Handango and many users claim it's a speed champ.
This player comes in two (really three) flavors:
one for ARM processor-based SL-5500s and another for Zaurii with
XScale processors (SL-5600, c7xx models). If you install the
XScale version on a C7xx series device, you'll get two apps:
Dr. Z Video Player and Dr. Z Video Player VGA. Movies that are
less than 640 x 480 will not be stretched to full screen on the
C7xx series when using the VGA version of the player.
Dr. Z can play MPEG1, MPEG4 and AVI file formats,
and uses the ffmpeg's libavcodec library from ffmpeg.sourceforge.net as
does tkcVideo. It supports regular and full screen playback,
and has the usual controls for playing, pausing, stoping, fast
forwarding, rewinding movies. In addition it has controls that
let you jump to the previous and next movies in the current directory.
Performance on my C860 was good with no perceived
dropped frames or loss of audio/video sync even when playing
files from a Kingston high speed SD card. While Dr. Z Video doesn't
support as many file formats as tkcVideo, it does support several
popular formats and will do the job for most.
Ease of use: No-brainer. Install the package and
tap on the Dr. Z Video Player icon to play your movies.
The same much-loved folks who bring you the popular
Cacko X11 ROM for the Zaurus make Kino2, a GUI version of the
command line mplayer application. As with mplayer, it supports
most popular video formats: AVI, MPEG4, DIVX, MPEG1, MPEG2, ASF
and WMV. Unlike mplayer, you won't have to touch the command
line and type out long commands to watch a video burried somewhere
on your storage card. If you've already installed the command
line version of mplayer, you must uninstall it before installing
Kino2 which includes its own optimized version of mplayer.
Kino2 offers basic features and controls: you can
fast forward, rewind, play and pause movies (in full screen playback
mode you won't have access to these controls, obviously). Kino2
can playback movies scaled or full screen, and offers quite a
few settings to tweak playback performance. Not bad for a free
player! On the C860 running the stock Sharp ROM, I do get a thin
band of video artifacts at the bottom of the screen during full
screen playback, but that is located below the movie so doesn't
interfere unduly with enjoying the flick. Sound wasn't quite
as good compared to tkcVideo and Dr. Z Video.
Ease of use: Install the package, then watch your
movies! It supports internal memory and storage cards as do the
commercial players reviewed above.
Dependancies: requires ncurses 5. (I use ncurses
5.3 from Cacko's web site)
For those of your who are like me: old hands at
Linux, but not a big fan of Vi which comes with the Zaurus and
pretty much every Unix/Linux system. Nano is very similar to
Pico: a capable and user-friendly text editor that you'll run
from the command line in a terminal session. It doesn't offer
the power of Emacs or Vi (I would love to have a port of Emacs
for the Zaurus!) but it will get the job done easily enough when
light editing is your goal.
Why do you need a text editor? At some point, you'll
discover the need to edit conf files or otherwise twiddle with
your system to customize it or set up some neat drivers you've
downloaded for such things as CF Bluetooth cards.
Ease of use: just install the package and hunt
down a copy of ncurses which also installs easily as a package.
Then type nano while in a terminal session to run the app. Even
if you've never used Nano or Pico on a Unix/Linux system it's
very easy to get going: simply use the command keys indicated
at the bottom of the screen to get a task done (hint: the Fn
key functions as the Control key on the Zaurus so hit Fn and
x to exit. Tthe control key is shown as ^ on Unix systems).
Ease of Use: It's a shell app, not a GUI one so
if you've never touched the command line in any OS, this will
be a new experience. However, it's really easy to use like many
shell apps that have been the backbone of Unix and Linux systems
since day one.
Allergic to the command line? Terminal sessions
leave you feeling cold? ZEditor is a free GUI text editor that
will keep you safe in the land of the Zaurus' graphical user
interface. If you've used Notepad in Windows or Simple Text on
the Mac, you'll feel right at home with ZEditor. ZEditor offers
more advanced functions and features than do Notepad and Simple
Text: you can cut/copy/paste, find, find next, replace, undo,
remove line, duplicate, mark, use the keyboard to jump, auto
indent, word wrap, do a character count and more.
Ease of use: Download and install the package.
You'll see a ZEditor icon in your applications group. It doesn't
get easier than this! If you need to edit system files, remember
to tap and hold on the ZEditor icon and check the box that allows
you to run the app as root (most all Zaurus apps work this way,
but you generally don't want to run apps as root).
This is a handy basic HTML editor that works on
all Zaurii and runs full screen on the C7xx series (the freeware
HTML@Zaurus doesn't use the full screen). It's a bit confusing
that the app is listed on Handango for $4.99 with a commercial
license, yet the author has made the source available (parts
are GPL, and the rest is LGPL). It's also available for free
from Zaurus feed sites. Anyhow, this nifty little app offers
syntax highlighting, allows you to have several files open at
once, has a preview in Opera function and has a nice popup where
you can select from the most common beginning and ending html
tags. It will certainly do the trick nicely if you need to quickly
update web pages.
Ease of Use: Install the package and tap on the
icon in the programs group. The app is very intuitive and has
no learning curve.
Price: $4.99, Commercial License but source is
Got a digicam and want to view your photos using
your trusty Z? tkcGallery will allow you to do just that, and
offers very fast image load times for both thumbnails and full
screen viewing, even with higher resolution images taken with
a 3 megapixel digicam. I really like the the image info feature
which provides you with detailed info about the shot such as
f-stop, shutter speed, aperture, metering mode, flash setting,
resolution, dimensions and more. Not all desktop apps offer image
metaInfo, so it's great to see it in a PDA app.
As you'd expect from a full-featured PDA image
viewer, tkcGallery can move, copy, rename and delete images as
well as rotate them (and remember the rotation settings for a
given image). It has a slideshow feature that allows you to specify
the delay between images, and you can even specify the thumbnail
size in pixels. Quite a full-featured app, and very fast even
with large images. Like all apps from theKomany, it's easy to
use and very polished.
Ease of Use: Super-simple. Install the package,
tap on the app's icon in theKompany program group and start playing.
Use the mouse icon on the upper right hand corner to access common
Graphic artists with a penchant for painting and
drawing will love this application. Be sure to read the manual
posted on the developer's web site as the interface contains
some unique elements. Also check out the pen pressure driver
listed there, which allows C7xx series models to respond to pen
pressue when drawing— very cool!
Petite Peinture (though the developer is Japanese,
the program name is French for "Little Painting") supports
BMP, PNG, JPG, and PTPT formats (PTPT is Petite Peinture's own
format and that format supports layers). You'll find the usual
drawing/painting app tools such as an eraser, pencil, water brush
(behaves like a cross between a watercolor and oil brush), cloud
brush, color picker, zoom, and layer management. It may not be
Photoshop, but it's enough to allow you to create some very nice
Ease of Use: Installation is a breeze: just install
the package and then tap on the Petite Peinture icon in your
programs group. The interface is a bit unusual, so spend some
time reading the manual and playing around with all the tools
So you're not a budding Vermeer, but you do need
to create diagrams, simple flow charts, map directions or simply
jot notes to yourself. Check out FreeNoteQT which will allow
you to do just that. This versatile app sports some very cool
features: it has drawing modes that will let your draw freehand,
or it you can use the auto shapes feature to have the app turn
your wobbly attempts at drawing squares, triangles, circles and
etc. into lovely smooth vector graphics. It can also smooth your
curved and straight lines, and supports color and line width.
Throw in text support (choose your font, size and color), an
eraser, undo and you've got FreeNoteQT. Even better, the app
will let you work with very large canvases, and can save in PNG
and PDF format.
Ease of Use: Install the package and tap on the
FreeNote icon in the programs group. Most features are inituitive
and the web site has a good walk through of features.
These days, who can live without a PDF viewer?
Don't hold your breath waiting for Adobe to release a Zaurus
version of Acrobat Reader— instead get a copy of the free
qpdf2. It's fast and can handle large (10 meg) PDF with images.
It offers many levels of zoom, full screen mode and allows you
to jump to first/last/next/previous pages. qpdf@ can rotate the
screen on the fly (quickly too), and have it fit the document
to the width of your screen. My favorite two features are: 1)
you can drag the document around instead of scrolling 2) you
can switch between standard PDF view and a text equivalent that
allows you to copy and paste text from the PDF file!
Ease of Use: Install the package, then tap on the
PDF icon in the programs group. The app is pretty easy to figure
out, and the latest version does an ever better job of rendering
and presenting the user with zoom options.
Linux users will probably be familiar with Kismet,
but did you know there's a version for the Zaurus? Kismet is
a WiFi site survey and sniffer app that detects access points
and reports back detailed info about them. Kismet supports the
Prism chipset (the most common WiFi chipset). Note that most
CF cards don't support promiscuous mode, so you'll need to create
a bogus connection in the Network applet for your WiFi card or
activate an existing connection to bring the card up so that
Kismet can do its thing. If you go the bogus route, use ANY for
the SSID name, and the following for TCP/IP settings:
IP Address: 188.8.131.52
Subnet Mask: 255.255.255.255
Detailed info From Kismet Wireless:
Kismet is an 802.11 layer2 wireless network detector, sniffer, and intrusion
detection system. Kismet will work with any wireless card which support
raw monitoring (rfmon) mode, and can sniff 802.11b, 802.11a, and
802.11g traffic. Kismet identifies networks by passively collecting
packets and detecting standard named networks, detecting (and given
time, decloaking) hidden networks, and infering the presence of nonbeaconing
networks via data traffic.
Ease of Use: Install the package. You'll need to
tap and hold on the icon to check the "run as root" box.
You may have to edit some config files. I got it running pretty
easiy on my C860 using the Ambicom
WiFi CF card, but some other folks have had troubles getting
it running using various Zaurus models and cards. But it's free
and a very useful app, so give it a try!
Sure you can FTP using the command line in the
terminal application, but this GUI can save you time and is great
for those who've been weaned on graphical FTP programs like Fetch
and WS FTP on the desktop.
tkcFTP can save multiple server profiles and you'll
be able to give each connection a friendly name, set the server
name, port, path, user name and password (shown as astericks
once you enter it for security purposes). Tap on a saved connection
to connect to your server and tkcFTP will log you on and show
you a tree list of remote files. You can expand and collapse
directory listings and use one of two tree views (simple or detailed,
detailed view is shown on the right). Using the mouse icon in
the lower right corner, you can sort the files by name, size
or date; reverse order and turn on/off display of hidden files.
You can select all, none or some files for upload or download
and create, delete and rename files and directories.
Ease of Use: Installation is a breeze; install
the package, tap on the FTP icon in theKompany program group.
Most common commands can be found by tapping on the mouse icon,
while one or two icons on the bottom of the screen may be a bit
mysterious until you consult the manual.
Opera 7.30 with multimodal extensions,
browser by Opera but
multimodal by IBM and offered by IBM
SL5xxx series machines come with an older version
of Opera and the C7xx series machines come with the excellent
NetFront web browser. But everyone loves an upgrade and having
more choices, so I've included Opera 7.30 in our listings. Opera
is not offering this version of their Zaurus browser for download,
so don't bother searching their web site. IBM, that Linux loving
company, is offering a customized version of the browser for
the Zaurus. It's a part of their pervasive computing initiative
which focuses on "smart devices" and embedded systems.
When you download thier WebSphere Everyplace Multimodal package,
you'll get not only Opera 7.30 but IBM's multimodal extensions
which enable Opera to say a few words to you and allows you to
input voice commands. The software is listed as trial software,
but it doesn't seem to expire. The Cacko ROM includes Opera 7
Opera 7 is very fast on my C860 and is definitely
worth the 5 megs + of space if you're into web browsing with
your Z. It supports multiple windows (you can supress pop-up
windows if you wish), resizeable text, grab and move for scrolling
certificates, and voice commands.
Ease of Use: Install the package and tap on the
Opera icon in the programs group. If Opera launches then closes
very quickly, and you see it complaining that it can't find/load
some .ini files when you're trying to run it from the command
line, you'll need to create a symbolic link from the shell as
root. Enter the following to accomplish this:
cd /usr/share (then hit the enter key)
ln -s /opt/QtPalmtop/opera opera (then hit the enter key)
You shouldn't see any error messages. If you do, then you either forgot
to login as root by typing su at the terminal prompt first, or you made
While the Zaurus, particularly the most recent
models, have strong built-in driver support for most WiFi, wired
Ethernet and CF modem cards, Bluetooth is another story. You
can indeed use Bluetooth CF cards such as the Socket
CF Bluetooth card, the Anycom
BT card and the first revision AmbiCom
BT card in your Zaurus, but you'll need to get some drivers.
Enter BlueZ and some associated GUI apps that will allow you
to use these cards to connect to BT phones, access points and
I installed BlueZ on my C860,
and added a couple of great GUI add-on's that allow you to configure
the BT card using the Network applet. These apps add PAN- TCP/IP
and Dial-up (Bluetooth) options to the standard list of networking
options in the Network applet and allow you to configure your
connection using that familiar interface. Here are the apps and
where to get them:
The first item is a driver you'll definitely want
if you're using the AmbiCom or Pretec cards because it greatly
improves throughput. The 2nd is for Anycom cards, but you already
figured that out .
The other two are the GUI add-ons.
Ease of Use: Get ready to geek around some. Install
the packages, then find out your phone's/PC's/access point's
MAC address using the Z and BlueZ from the command line, edit
some config files as root. Be sure to read tumnus' excellent
How-To posted on the ZaurusUserGroup.com site here— You'll
save yourself a lot of time and agony. Note that if you're connecting
using a PAN connection (e.g.: to a Bluetooth access point or
your PC's USB adapter), DHCP isn't supported, so you'll have
to enter the appropriate TCP/IP settings in the Network applet
for your BT card's connection via PAN. If you're a newbie, this
whole process may take you some time, but if you're experienced
with networking and/or Linux you should be up and running without
hardship. Once you get it all setup, the connections are turnkey
and you should have an easy time sufing via your BT enabled mobile
phone and more!
Everyone keeps secrets, so why not your Zaurus?
SafeDee is just the place to safely store credit card numbers,
PIN numbers, web account info, server passwords and anything
else you wish to keep safe from others. It uses Blowfish encryption
which will keep bad guys and nosy folks out, and is quite flexible.
Most password/credit card manager apps allow you to encrypt all
or none of your data, while SafeDee lets you choose what you
want to encrypt. That feature can save you a bit of time when
you need to look something up without entering your password
(and how many of us need to encrypt our VCR's serial number,
for example, even though you might want to use SafeDee to store
SafeDee comes with several handy pre-defined categories,
and you can add new ones, edit existing ones or delete any you
don't find useful. Remember to create a password so you can encrypt
your data, and do remember your password, because if you forget
it, there's no way to get your unencrypted data back. SafeDee
can import and export data in CSV format, but remember to enter
your password before exporting data because encrypted fields
will appear as **** rather than plain text. A very polished and
flexible app. I'd be in heaven if there were a desktop counterpart.
Ease of Use: Simple as it gets: install the package,
tap on the icon in the programs group and start entering your
data and customizing your categories. Do remember to set a password
and don't forget what it is!
Price: $14.95, a small price to pay in the interest
of keeping sensitive data safe
It seems everyone loves reading a good eBook. Just
Reader is a capable and customizable reader that supports free
Palm pdb eBooks, text and HTML files (good offline web page reader).
It's highly configurable and allows you to change the font, bolding/italics,
justification, margins, indents and more. You can also set up
the keyboard navigation and controls to suit yourself. A few
of the settings windows are clipped when run in VGA mode on the
C7xx series, but you can still get to everything. In addition,
Just Reader allows you to create bookmarks, search, view the
table of contents and create your own TOC. Very nice! Note that
Just Reader can't open encrypted DRM (Digital Rights Management)
eBooks purchased from PalmDigitalMedia.com.
Ease of Use: Install the package and tap on the
Just Reader icon in the programs group. The menu items, controls
and settings are all quite intuitive.
Opie Reader (also known as QTRreader) is part of
the Opie project and supports quite a few document formats: Doc
format (AportisDoc format), early non-DRM Palm Reader pdb files,
Weasel or ztxt format, Plucker format, gzipped text, ppms text,
HTML and plain text. Like Just Reader, it doesn't support encrypted
DRM eBooks sold by places such as PalmDigitalMedia.com.
Opie Reader allows you to customize the display
and settings. Layout settings include kerning, bold, inverse,
full justification, strip CRs, and setting spacing. You can also
set the indent, graphics zoom level, leading, margins and change
the font. Reader also offfers a great number of encodings, which
will ensure that most texts are properly interpreted.
Ease of Use: Install the package, tap on the icon
in the programs group and start reading. The settings are clearly
presented and easy to grasp.
Price: Free, GPL
*Footnote for Linux Newbies Only: As
noted in some cases throughout this review, you many need
to edit config files as the root user. If you're not familiar
with Unix and Linux systems, root is the top dog user, and
there is no real equivalent on Windows operating systems
where even the Administrator can't whack important systems
files. The root user can delete an entire file system and
has complete control. To do things as root, start a terminal
session and type su to become root. Your prompt will change
to a #. When you're done with your task, be sure to type
exit to end the root terminal session. Also consider finding
a copy of sudo, which allows you to issue a single command
as root. This way you won't stay logged in as root and do
accidental damage to files.